Vuyi Zondi exclusive interview

‘ My friends were my guinea pigs for my fledgling cosmetics company’

Vuyi Zondi, 28, lives in Midrand and is a full-time management consultant. She also runs Corium Naturals Skincare, a beauty company. I’ve always had an interest in beauty and would spend hours in my kitchen experimenting over my stove to make my own elixirs.

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I’m inspired by traditional beauty practices, such as African and Ayurvedic, that make use of natural ingredients, like coconut oil. But back in 2014 my knowledge of natural skincare was rather limited, so I decided to do an online course at the School of Natural Skincare to learn more about oils, serums, and how to make beauty products using only natural ingredients. Using the skills that I gained from my online course, I asked my friends and family to test out the products that I made. They raved about them, and some even asked me to come up with solutions for their various skin ailments – and that’s how my business, Corium Naturals Skincare, was born. I realised I wanted to grow my hobby to reach a bigger market, so I worked on developing new formulations. I was saving for a house, but I used that money as start-up capital for the company.

The brand caters to most skin types and is primarily aimed at women – but there are now a few men buying the products as well. The bestsellers are the African Black Soap, which is imported from Ghana, and the very aromatic Lemon Brightening Overnight Serum, which we make ourselves. The safety of the products on the skin is very important to me, so I make sure I source materials from suppliers that provide certificates declaring the ingredients are safe for people to use. Because I still work full time as a management consultant, I have a team of four – consisting of two full-time and two casual staff – who help me during the week with production and admin, as well as sales.

I make time to work on the company in the evening or early morning, and I block off weekends for any business responsibilities. I’ve been really lucky to have had a lot of support from my friends – they’ve tested all my products and given me valuable feedback. As a Wits Business School graduate, I’m also grateful for the network of my former classmates – we belong to a ‘sisterhood’ of sorts where we offer each other support, and we even bounce ideas off each other in a WhatsApp group. Corium Naturals Skincare products are mostly sold online, but in the last year or so I have managed to get my products into a handful of concept stores and beauty spas.

While the online store still forms a major part of my business, I’ve also learnt that people often prefer to have a tactile experience before buying a beauty product: they need to feel it on their skin, or smell its fragrance. It’s still early days, but I would love to expand the brand and get it into more major outlets around the country. What remains important to me, though, is that the brand stays focused on using quality natural ingredients that help make my customers look and feel beautiful. Of course, it goes without saying that one day it would be amazing for my hobby to be my nine to five – and I think I’m well on my way.

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